The aroma of roses (Rosa hybrida) is due to more than 400 volatile compounds including terpenes, esters, and phenolic derivatives. 2-Phenylethyl acetate, cis-3-hexenyl acetate, geranyl acetate, and citronellyl acetate were identified as the main volatile esters emitted by the flowers of the scented rose var. "Fragrant Cloud." Cell-free extracts of petals acetylated several alcohols, utilizing acetyl-coenzyme A, to produce the corresponding acetate esters. Screening for genes similar to known plant alcohol acetyltransferases in a rose expressed sequence tag database yielded a cDNA (RhAAT1) encoding a protein with high similarity to several members of the BAHD family of acyltransferases. This cDNA was functionally expressed in Escherichia coli, and its gene product displayed acetyl-coenzyme A:geraniol acetyltransferase enzymatic activity in vitro. The RhAAT1 protein accepted other alcohols such as citronellol and 1-octanol as substrates, but 2-phenylethyl alcohol and cis-3-hexen-1-ol were poor substrates, suggesting that additional acetyltransferases are present in rose petals. The RhAAT1 protein is a polypeptide of 458 amino acids, with a calculated molecular mass of 51.8 kD, pI of 5.45, and is active as a monomer. The RhAAT1 gene was expressed exclusively in floral tissue with maximum transcript levels occurring at stage 4 of flower development, where scent emission is at its peak.